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Free Online Art History Courses, Lectures & Learning Materials

See our list of the top free online art history courses. Learn about what courses are available and what topics they cover to find the course that's right for you.

Online Art History Courses for Credit

While students can locate free courses in art history online that don't require registration or tuition, these courses cannot supply college credit. Those who are willing to consider low-cost courses that can lead to college credit can consider the content found on Study.com, which provides engaging history lessons online in the form of video and text. Study.com also offers practice quizzes to help students monitor their understanding along the way.

Students can check out Art 101: Art of the Western World, which includes chapters such as:

  • Gothic Art - Topics include gothic painting, architecture, and other expressions and aspects of this style.
  • Neoclassical Art - Study the Roman inspiration in neoclassical art, the effect of social and political events on neoclassical art, and famous works from this period
  • Romanticism in Art - Learn about the thematics of the Romantic period, the differences between folk art and academic art, and the characteristics of major works from this era.

Info on Free Online Courses, Lectures and Learning Materials in Art History

Online art history courses and learning materials typically provide students with access to history lessons, notes and outlines. Most are accompanied by slides illustrating the medium or style of work being discussed. Students who complete the free online courses profiled below will not receive university credit, though they can use these study guides, lectures and learning materials for self-study.

Free Online Art History Resources

Open University

  • Making Sense of Art History is designed to expose prospective art history students to the field. Students take a look at sculptures, paintings, photographs and mixed media installations in an attempt to understand what these images express. Additionally, students try to determine what these pieces say about the artists and their own lives.
  • Art in Renaissance Venice focuses on how Venice's ethnic diversity and trade industry defined the art of the Italian Renaissance. Online students can explore Eastern and Islamic influences on the city's architecture as well as examine several paintings. Discussion questions and sample answers are included at the end of the course.
  • Helen Langdon's 'Caravaggio' discusses Caravaggio's work in the context of what is known about his life. Materials are presented over the course of several units that cover his biographical details and methods for interpreting his paintings. Available materials include a suggested reading list and activities with accompanying documentation.
  • Delacroix is an introductory course on the artist Eugéne Delacroix that discusses his work within the context of the Romantic movement and the Enlightenment. Students look at the artist's early life and piece together the various cultural and personal influences on his work, including the Oriental themes appearing in his paintings. Course materials include video recordings accompanied by notes.
  • Musée du Louvre is for students interested in learning how the museum's collection has been assembled. It also attempts to trace its importance to the study of art history. Materials for this intermediate level course consist almost entirely of video clips accompanied by discussion questions and sample answers.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Art Since 1940 covers art from Asia, Europe, Africa, the United States, Latin America and the Middle East. Students examine mainstream and lesser known forms of art as well as art's function as both a political and aesthetic tool. Lecture notes can be downloaded as PDF files and cover the San Francisco school, Andy Warhol, performance art, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, minimalism and the Beat movement. Exam and paper topics are also available.

Indianapolis Museum of Art

  • Cycles: African Life through Art presents separate galleries based on four distinct life cycles. Through a combination of images, musical recordings and textual information, students can see how artwork depicts ancestral relationships, youth, adulthood and leadership. The program also explores the cultural and social implications of each work.

Rice University

  • History of Art Study Guide: 14th Century to the Present includes links to slides and course outlines for a variety of artistic styles, periods and media. Students who're taking art history courses or just want to brush up on their skills can also use this site to test their ability to identify significant paintings, sculptures and architecture. The site includes external links to other art history resources as well.

Yale University

  • Roman Architecture introduces students to the architectural, urban planning and engineering achievements of the Roman empire. The course can help students understand the importance of aesthetics in Roman civilization. It also explains how classic Roman architecture and art spread through much of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Course materials include 23 audio and video lectures recorded on the Yale University campus in the Spring of 2009. Transcripts are available as are links to over 1,500 images of Roman art and architecture.

Web Gallery of Art

  • Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum of artwork that allows students to search for pieces from a particular artist. The Web Gallery's virtual tours also include both visual and textual information categorized by region, time period, style or medium. Other resources include a glossary of terms.

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